Sadly, being away from Australia for a few years only sharpens one’s perceptions upon returning, in relation to the stand-out points of culture, media, politics and the like. The news is not always reassuring, and the shocks to the system can be considerable when things that were not there before, or not so noticeable at any rate, are now very much in-your-face.
First, for example, the almost total takeover of free-to-air television by third-rate reality shows demonstrates a culture deep, deep in the embrace of boganism. This is beyond Summer Bay culture, far worse.
Then there is the turning of some of Australia’s iconic beaches, once havens of simple family pleasures, into virtual nudist camps. This might initially be seen (by ageing males) as a positive development, but it also speaks to a culture of accelerating libertine decline, of an “anything-goes ’cause we’re all hip now” abandonment of standards of virtue once universally accepted by the great, the good and everyone else to boot. If you don’t appreciate almost-nude females – most men have, happily, avoided the need to G-string themselves – don’t go to the beach!
Another marker of decline is the immersion of our culture is wall-to-wall gambling, again incessantly boomed into every lounge room by via television and mostly associated these days with non-animal sports – sports that are now seemingly dependent beneficiaries on revenue from that saddest of vices. I refer to sporting codes like the AFL and the NRL.
A fourth example that came as a shock upon my return to Oz is the almost universal acceptance now of calling children names like, well, Jaidyn. The ultimate postmodern middle finger at tradition, save for the equally shocking near universal tattooism of the country.
A final example is the sheer obsession of the media with weird, lowbrow crime. Recent headlined examples from my local organ of (no) choice, The Northern Star of Lismore, are exemplars of the new debasement:
“Illegal doofers leave ‘disgraceful aftermath’ at park”
“Alleged killers in court as defence considers new report”
“Serious charge could be withdrawn in syringe attack case”
“Man who raped teen stepson to spend years behind bars”
“Man charged with bestiality, stealing underwear” …
So much for uplifting Aussie journalism. Yes, OK, the obsession with crime in the populist media is not new. Yes, bad news has always sold papers. No, what is new is the wall-to-wallness of it, especially in regional news media, and the routinisation of the weirdness of it all. Bestiality + stealing underwear – and? Just your average postmodern minor crime in an all-is-acceptable, all-is-expected, crime-addled, down-market culture.
Perhaps the most unexpected disappointment upon returning to the Land of Oz, though, was discovering the secular (in every sense) decline of that once great solace of Sydney’s deplorables and the doyen of commuter reads, The Daily Telegraph.
The Tele is, and always has been, the rugby league bible, and so is devoured daily by much of Western Sydney (not so much in Newtown and Bellevue Hill). It has always had the front page headline shockers, once upon a time the page three girls, the politically incorrect cartoons, an active crime beat reportage, and a tilt towards Aussie television culture of the Home and Away rather than the highbrow variety. In short, Tory but working class, a marvellous antidote to the head-up-its-own-fundament Sydney Morning Herald.
Sad to report though is The Sunday Telegraph’s latest effort (Sunday, 23 June; paywalled) to become a spear thrower in the escalating, all-fronts total war on Israel Folau. Here’s a sample of the Sunday Tele’s editorial:
Israel Folau’s homophobic beliefs are not the views of the ‘silent majority’. Donors are flocking to a GoFundMe page set up with the premise of supporting ‘religious freedom’, but Israel Folau’s fight with Rugby Australia was never about religious freedom — and his views are out of step with the majority of Australians.
There are four problems here. The first is the assertion of homophobia. The second is the sneer quotes around religious freedom. The third is the simply absurd proposition that the Folau matter is not about religious freedom. This is Blind Freddy territory. The fourth is the claim that Folau’s “views” are out of touch.
Let us take these in turn. First, Folau’s alleged “homophobia”.
This is the oldest new trick in the book, constantly parlayed by the rainbow woke, and the most risible. No, it is not homophobic for a Christian (or a Muslim, for that matter) to regard homosexual acts as sinful. The distinction is so obvious that it hardly bears repeating, although ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ comes immediately to mind. Those who claim to see and encounter endless homophobia are not stupid, and their use of that neologism has repeatedly demonstrated it is ploy, an Orwellian newspeak tactic of the new ruling class. Say it often enough and it becomes real, a threat to “decent society” that must be expunged! Just like Islamophobia, that other non-existent evil used to silence criticism of a political system of absolute control presenting itself as a religion.
The Sunday Telegraph erroneously also stated that Folau “compared” homosexuals to thieves and liars. Er, no he didn’t. He simply said that all three groups are sinners. Like the whole human race, in fact, including editorial writers who misrepresent the truth. We do all share sinfulness, after all. The reduction of Christian views on sin to a phobia is truly pathetic and must be challenged, vigorously, over and over again. (Just as Michael Novak noted in a different context, that the evils of socialism have to be explain a fresh to each generation, over and over again).
(editor’s note: It is important to remember that the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph are two different papers, with independent editorial policiese, separate offices and their own staffs. That division is immediately obvious in any comparison of their editorials on the Folau matter. While the Sunday Telegraph has harkened to the ABC-standard line of smear and accusation, the Daily Telegraph editorials have been unqualified and unstinting in his support and the defence of free speech.)
This is not even to mention that a Christian’s duty is to correct what he sees as moral error, in the selfless and clearly under-appreciated service – to be welcomed, I would have thought – of saving the souls of one’s fellows. Tough work, but someone has to do it.
One is minded a little in this context of the exchange between Sir Thomas More and the Duke of Norfolk:
The Duke: Oh confound all this. I’m not a scholar, I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not but dammit, Thomas, look at these names! Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!
Sir Thomas More: And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?
No, talking about sin ain’t homophobia.
Second, putting sneer quotes around ‘religious freedom’.
The view here is that either religious freedom merely means going to church on Sunday without anyone stopping you, or that religious freedom is actually not much under threat – it is all a beat-up by the God botherers – or that religious freedom is indeed under threat but that it doesn’t matter to the great majority of secularists. Sneer quotes are an old ploy. Hell, we all do it. But the diminution of an issue so fundamental as religious freedom, or the suggestion that talking of threats to it are the exaggerations of nutters and fantasists, demeans any news organisation worth its subscription. It also insults its readers.
Third, the claim that the Folau issue is really about contract law, not freedom of speech and religion.
Paid-up lawyers in the anti Folau camp wish to keep this as a simple matter of enforceable and legitimate contracts. Another old trick – make the issue seem to be about something else, and by so doing seek to win that argument. (The legal process will determine the Folau case in due course, though given the recent Pell abomination, one must gag a little on the trust previously placed in the Oz judicial system). I actually thought that human rights, like freedom of speech, overshadowed all other rights and duties under Australian legislation, but on that we must wait to see if one can indeed sign away one of the most basic liberties we enjoy.
The importance of the Folau case is what it shows about our culture and our society. Even if it began as merely a contractual matter, now it isn’t. Folau’s actions, and the response not just of the employer concerned (Rugby Australia) but of our cultural and political gatekeepers shine a light on the state of the union (no pun intended). The new, latest vilification phase of the Folau saga, with the cudgels of the powerful Gaystapo primed for use against any opponent daring to raise a head above the parapet, is real. And apparent to all but gay activists and intellectually lazy Telegraph editorial writers.
Fourth, that Folau’s views are “out of touch”.
This is a variation on the ‘this is 2019, after all’, the implied ‘Christians are medievalist idiots who gave us the burning of witches, the imprisonment of Galileo and the Spanish Inquisition’ meme. Well, Folau’s views might be out of touch with the current Pope. They might be out of touch with the Church of Nice, whatever-you-do-don’t-mention-hell homilists of the early twenty-first century. They might be out of touch with the voters of Fitzroy and Newtown. They might be out of touch with airline CEOs and the corporate bully boys. They might be even out of touch with Sunday Telegraph editorialists. So?
The tyranny of the majority is perhaps the worst form of tyranny, for it finds a home and persists under the cover of liberal democracy. That is scary tyranny. Cultural tyranny abounds in our corporatist society, especially the soft despotism of workplaces that enforce politically correct codes of conduct, just as Israel Folau’s workplace has done. Funny that. (Miranda Devine noted in a recent speech that she herself has had to endure workplace wokeness, I mean diversity training, so perhaps The Sunday Telegraph’s editorialising should come as no surprise).
The Sunday Telegraph’s description of those who feel “left behind by social change” is, alas, redolent of Barack Obama’s references to the citizens of small towns clinging to “guns and religion”. No, we-the-people don’t claim to be a “silent majority”. A “silent minority” still has rights, I thought, in a free society. It isn’t a numbers game. Charles Mackay once – nearly two hundred years ago now — wrote about the madness of crowds. The mad crowds are especially worrying when they acquire and deploy levers of power. Defenders of freedom of speech should know this. And, in fact, I don’t think I have heard anyone on Folau’s side say that “most” Australians agree with us. Whatever the numbers were in the homosexual marriage plebiscite (inevitably referred to by The Sunday Telegraph) is entirely beside the point.
It is not just one editorial, of course. We have front page headlines on Folau’s latest, shocking, freshly “homophobic” church sermons. We have accounts of his property empire. Well, investments. We have a running commentary on the ins and outs of the astonishingly successful yet appalling, for his detractors, crowd-sourcing campaign* for what might well become the legal fight of the century. And we have Folau’s sermons now routinely headlined as “anti-gay rants”. (*Gofundme has since declared Folau persona no grata and today, June 24, deep-sixed his fund-raising page).
The breadth and depth of the grip of rainbow wokeness never ceases to amaze. It has rendered supposedly right-of-centre institutions and erstwhile flag bearers mere useful idiots of the secularist progressive ruling class in the march the towards its total victory.
One expects fully paid-up members of the gay mafia, like David Marr, and their joined-at-the-hip compadres, like the Red Bandanna’d One, to pile on to Team Folau. They are defending ground won in the same sex marriage “referendum” at all costs. Indeed, they are hoping to ride that wave to the beach, and to double down on God-bothering relics who stand in the way of further territory gains. What a great opportunity to drive home the advantage gained during the “spring of love” that was late 2017. No, no surprises there.
As for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, its whole news department is now trained to use the terms “climate emergency” and “homophobic” as if they were matters of fact rather than the rhetorical truncheons of the Thought Police. One might wonder how the ABC’s entirely expected, ostentatious yet matter-of-fact references in its news bulletins to Folau’s “homophobia” differ in substance from the Telegraph’s front page references to “gay rants”.
The Sunday Telegraph’s failure to see the Folau case as a flagship freedom-of-speech issue is chilling for anyone with a modicum of understanding of how and why freedom is important. This would be freedom of conscience — the freedom that, as former Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson has pointed out, is prior to freedom of speech, its antecedent.
That The Sunday Telegraph also seems not to recognise the campaign to embed homosexualism (the brutal take-no-prisoners mainstreaming of homosexuality) in our culture is the ultimate form of political correct bullying is equally chilling. And utterly surprising.
While The Sunday Tele has a bit of a go at old fashioned class warfare – note the between-the-lines jabs at Folau’s property wealth – its going over to the woke progressive side only reinforces just how much the fault lines of Western politics have shifted. To say now that politics are about “left versus right” is almost meaningless. Politics now is about a new “them” and a new “us”.
A new ruling class that, yes, is rich, but which now flies a totally new set of ideological flags, appealing as it does to Enlightenment values (in actual fact ersatz rationalism), social liberalism, Maslovian (or Randian) individualism, the banishment of all religion (save vapid, trendoid, secularist spirituality) from every last nook and cranny of the public square, the routine mocking of traditional institutions and of traditionalist understandings of virtue. And, of course, mindless Davos-inspired globalist chanting.
The old politics are gone. As Mark Steyn might say – “pick a side” in the new fight for our lives and our values.
The new battle, the emerging battle fronts and the new protagonists have been amply well described and analysed by Angelo Codevilla, the wonderful Tucker Carlson and the author of the perceptive Flight 93 Election article, Michael Anton, among others. All this is occurring, coincidentally, as the electorally failed, but still philosophically fired-up members of the Australian Conservatives cast about for a new focus, a new name and a new leader.
They could do worse than seek to galvanise afresh the tribes that (perhaps) got Morrison over the line, that are still squeamish about the Liberal Party’s hoped-for tilting back to rightish-of-centre positioning, and who seem to have been abandoned by, of all institutions, the Sunday Telegraph. Ironically, it was the same-sex marriage debate that itself galvanised the Australian Conservatives into a fire-up movement. They need to remind the forty per cent who voted “no” that they are still, indeed, even more, under siege in a culture now depleted of its former traditions of freedom-for-virtue’s sake, respect for those with whom we disagree, standards of public decency and, let’s face it, keeping sex in the private bedrooms of our once classy and great nation.
One’s great fear is that the freshly elected Coalition still does not fully appreciate the fight we are in. Perhaps an even greater fear is that those to whom the soon-to-be-former Australian Conservatives might best appeal are themselves convinced that all is now OK, with the dodging of the Shorten bullet.
When such a normally observant commentator on the right as Andrew Bolt apparently believes that Morrison’s victory has “changed the nation”, we are indeed in deep doo-doo. Just ask Israel Folau.
Yes, there is a war on Israel Folau. For the woke brigade, he must be discredited at all costs, on all fronts and by any means necessary. This war matters, for reasons not immediately obvious to those who should know much better. The Sunday Telegraph needs to pick the right side.